The story is about an old friend, MC, who is down on his luck and homeless. In a last ditch effort to get help so he can get back on his feet, he phones an old friend he has not seen or spoken to in years. Instead of judging him, the old friend rushes to help him, thereby giving the MC a place to start from.
The Moral of The Story:
True friends don’t ask questions when you’re in need. They just help in whatever way they can.
An icy wind blew across the snowed-over parking lot. It slipped through the worn-down seals of James’ old Silverado, stirring him awake as it ran cold fingers across his exposed neck. He tried to ignore it, but the wintery touch slipped beneath his coat and his hoodie, clawing at his body, urging him to open his eyes.
When he did, he blinked. The parking lot lights were still on. How he was able to fall asleep with those blinding, white lights flickering over his head, he’ll never know. When this nightmare he lived first began, he considered driving out to the country, outside of the city limits, so he could get a good night’s sleep in some peace and quiet, with a dark sky instead of Wal-Mart lights flashing through the cab of his truck.
But he needed gas to do that. In wintertime, that was a precious resource he could not afford to waste.
So, James stayed put. He only drove the truck if he absolutely had to move it. Usually, that involved taking it across the street to the Quick-Stop so he could put a meager two or three dollars’ worth of quarters into the tank. Just enough gas to get him through a night or two, he hoped. Beyond that, he would walk to the Wal-Mart for whatever he needed, if he could even afford what he needed.
A shiver ran up his spine as he finally groaned awake, relenting to winter’s fury. His brow furrowed beneath his knit cap. For him, it shouldn’t feel this cold in the cab of the truck. Not with the heater running. Unless…
“No,” James’s eyes darted to the dash. All the lights on it were dark. His eyes closed and he slumped forward, forehead kissing the frozen steering wheel.
Out of gas.
A frustrated cry erupted from his lungs. He slammed a gloved hand against the dash, not caring how much it made his hand sting.
How did it come to this? How did he let his life fall apart this much? He had been fine a year ago, living a comfortable life in a decent apartment. He could afford food, thanks to his job. He had gas in his truck. Everything was fine, and he was alright with that.
It was the medical bills. That’s what did it. One medical emergency after another popped up for him until he couldn’t afford to keep up with the bills. Those same emergencies caused him to lose his construction job. No one wants to hire a man who can’t work on a building project.
He lost the apartment when he couldn’t afford rent. He lost all of his possessions, except for what he could fit in a suitcase and a backpack. He sold what he could, threw out what he couldn’t sell, and packed everything he had left in his truck. At least that one thing was paid for. No bank could take this run-down, piece of crap from him.
But now, even his reliable Silverado finally gave up the ghost. In wintertime, that may as well be a death sentence.
His eyes turned misty as he leaned back in his seat, drawing in a shaky breath. His throat bobbed and his eyes closed as his mind raced. He could not give up now. He refused to let the world win like this. But, what could he do? He was homeless. No address, no truck now, no money, no way of getting or holding a job.
James needed help.
It was a realization that made his gut twist into knots. Calling for help was the last thing he wanted to do. His pride choked him at the mere thought of doing that. Yet, what else could he do? Freeze?
He needed to swallow his pride.
With a shaky hand and a tremble in his step, he opened the ice-crusted driver’s side door and stepped out into the cold, Illinois air. The walk to the Wal Mart was excruciating, with his mind plaguing him with memories of his many failures. More than once, he debated turning around and going back to his truck. He could figure out something, right? He managed to get out of close scrapes like this before.
Back then, though, James had more resolve. He was standing taller when this first began. Now, he looked hobbled and haggard, barely hanging on by a thread. He couldn’t fight alone anymore, and behind his pride’s lies, he knew that.
The sliding doors of the Wal-Mart parted. A warm blast from the gargantuan building’s heaters hit him, chasing the cold away and bringing some feeling back to his fingers and toes. He shuffled his way to the customer service counter, keeping his head down and chin tucked to avoid attracting attention.
Thankfully, he was the first person in line this early in the morning. When he trudged to the counter, the young lady behind it gave him a warm smile.
“Good morning, sir. How can I help you?”
James snorted. If only she knew how much help he needed.
“I was wondering if I could use a phone,” he mumbled.
“A phone?” The lady pursed her lips. “Sure. I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
She reached for a landline on the counter and slid it over to him. James swallowed hard. He didn’t have family members he could call. None of them would help him. He was the black sheep, and those self-righteous pricks would say he reaped what he sowed.
There was one person he could call. But, he had not seen or spoken to him in years.
Gary was his last hope, though. His last chance. With a heavy breath, James tapped the old number he remembered, praying that it was still Gary’s home phone number.
The phone rang… and rang… and rang. His eyes closed, hope fading inside of him.
“This is Gary Harding. Who’s calling?”
James’ heart soared. There was a chance.
James shivered on the tailgate of his truck. His backpack was slung over his shoulders, covered in a light dusting of snow. The one suitcase he had rested on the tailgate beside him. A cold wind smacked him across the face, not caring at all about the scraggly beard that had grown across his face over the past few months.
His heart leaped when he saw a brand new, Ford pickup roll to a stop beside his Silverado. The door immediately opened. Gary flew out, his round belly shaking as he hit the ground. He didn’t bother turning his truck off. He simply marched up to James.
A mist formed in Gary’s eyes when he saw James. Without a word, he placed a hand on James’ shoulder.
“You look like crap.”
James scoffed out a laugh. That laugh turned into tears. He nodded, sniffling hard.
“Feel like it,” James croaked in reply. “Look, Gary, I only need some gas and–”
“Nah, nope,” Gary shook his head, “Not another word. I mean, look at this old thing. You think you’ll make it through winter in that? Hell no, you won’t.”
James’ lips thinned. He bowed his head, some shame filling him.
“Why didn’t you call sooner, bud?”
James uttered a shaky breath. “Pride,” he admitted. “Shame.” He shrugged. “Just thought I could make it somehow. That this would be temporary and I would be fine. But, everything kept rolling downhill and next thing I know, here I am.”
Gary nodded. “Yeah, well, not anymore.” With that, James’ old friend from high school reached for the suitcase, hauling it off the tailgate. “I’ll come back and tow this truck back to the house. For now, let’s get you home.”
James blinked. “Home?”
“Yup,” Gary threw the suitcase in the bed of his truck, “cause you’re living with me until you’re on your feet. End of discussion. I ain’t gonna hear no protesting or arguing from you.”
James’ eyes widened. Gary was letting him live at his home? Why?
“Gary, you don’t–”
“Now what did I just say?”
“You argue anymore, and I’m gonna stop for a nice breakfast just for you, and you’re gonna like it. Now c’mon, I’ve got eggs and sausage at home waiting.”
James sniffled, wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, then slid off the tailgate. He slammed the metal door closed behind him, giving the bed of his Silverado a hard pat. It had served him well while he needed it, but Gary was right. He needed to move on and accept the generous help his friend was offering him.
Still, something gnawed at his mind as he moved to Gary’s truck and climbed into the passenger seat. When Gary joined him in the cab and started the truck, James glanced at him.
“Why are you doing so much? You could have heard my call and agreed to bring a couple gallons of gas, but instead, you’re giving me a home to start rebuilding from. Why?”
Gary gave him a sympathetic look. “You see, James, in this world, we’re all one bad week, month, year, you name it, away from being where you are. Doesn’t matter what we do for a living, or how much money a man makes in his life, any of us could end up in this parking lot, hoping for a gallon of gas. I’m included in that.”
“And when you called me, all that ran through my mind. Now, my old man, god rest his soul, taught me a very important lesson. It’s a lesson that caused me to have some amazing memories and get into one too many fistfights: friends have each other’s backs, no matter the circumstances, no questions asked. A true friend answers the call of his friend when they’re in need. They go above and beyond to help because that is what a man is supposed to do for his friend. Doesn’t matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other either. That’s just how it is.”
Gary threw his truck into drive. The tires rolled and crunched atop snow and ice as it pulled away from James’ temporary shelter.
Gary gave James a smile.
“Now, let’s get you back home, cause you need a shower. You smell terrible.”
A laugh tumbled from James’ lips. He wiped at his eyes again, only this time, he wasn’t crying out of sorrow or despair. It was joy.
His friend came for him when he was in need. James would be forever grateful to Gary. And, he would keep the lessons he had learned from this entire experience in his mind and heart.
Be ready to help a friend in need. You never know when they’ll call for a gallon of gas. And when they do call, bring more than a gallon of gas, and be ready to help them to where they need to go.
So, when a friend calls for help, go and help them. Don’t ask questions. Get them what they need and more. After all, you never know if you’ll be in the position of needing help, and needing a friend to come through for you.